Traffic has driven greenhouse gas emissions seven times faster in Ireland than in the rest of Europe – and electric vehicles alone won’t fix the problem, experts warn .
One compared the country’s transport system to a patient in cardiac arrest relying on a policy of administering aspirin to save their life.
The problems stem from decades of prioritising roads over rail and other forms of public transport, and from poor planning that has seen householders forced to commute long distances.
The assessments came in briefings to the Oireachtas Climate Action Committee at the start of what is to be an extensive examination of the Government’s commitment to halving emissions by 2030.
Andrew Murphy of the Brussels-based NGO and campaign group Transport and Environment said transport emissions in Ireland grew 136pc between 1990 and 2019, compared with a 20pc average in the EU.
“It would be tempting to ascribe such exceptional growth to Ireland’s increase in GDP and population over that period. However, this would ignore the role that policy decisions at all levels have played,” he said.
Tadhg O’Mahony of the Finland Futures Research Centre at the University of Turku, who is also an adviser to the Environmental Protection Agency, echoed this view.
“We have delivered the perfect conditions for lock-in to a carbon-intensive transport system,” he said.
He said the 2019 Climate Action Plan had a “problematic relationship with transport” as key decisions on infrastructure and planning developments were taken separately from it.
“To plug this gap, the Climate Action Plan was forced to further ramp up the goal for the number of electric vehicles (EVs), to a level that is difficult to achieve,” he said, referring to EVs as the aspirin approach.
Planning regulator Niall Cussen said it was a challenge to get local authorities to move away from the developer-led, roads-led planning of the past and to focus on sustainable development.